Located in Inyo County, Ballarat California is a ghost town which supposedly has a few residents living their dream within the town. Ballarat is located in the Panamint Mountain range just off the Trona Wilderness Road and sough of highway 190.
As early as 1849, the area served as a watering hole known as Post Office Springs. Prospectors and travelers alike would stop for water in the hot and dry Mojave Desert.
The town of Ballarat was founded in 1897 and named for Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, by an Australian immigrant George Riggins. Ballarat Clifornia was originally founded as a supply point for the mines Panamint Mountains and surrounding area. A blacksmith shop and store supported this efforts.
Within a year of the founding, the towns population stabilized at about 500 residents. Three hotels, seven saloons, a school, jail and morgue all served this outpost along with a post office and Wells Fargo station. The town site featured few natural resources and had to be shipped into the remote location. Adobe bricks were used as the primary building material.
The town was relatively lawless and was mostly filled with hard working miners looking for relaxation and an opportunity to blow off steam. The saloons and a population of prostitutes were supported by Ballarat.
The main mine, the Radcliffe, produced 15,000 tons or more of ore from 1898 to 1903. From 1927 to 1942 its tailings were cyanided with a reported recovery value of one quarter of a million dollars in gold. The town began to fail following the closure of the Radcliff Mine in 1903. Despite supporting other mining towns like Harrisberg, as the gold played out, so did the fortunes of Ballarat, which closed the post office in 1917.
In 1941 the Ballarat Mining and Milling Corporation, a Nevada company, bought property in the Slate and Panamint ranges in San Bernardino and Inyo counties. A Los Angeles company intended to make exhaustive metallurgical tests, paving the way for a projected modern fifty-ton reduction mill south of town to perform custom work. An assay office and metallurgical laboratory were to be part of the complex, and once again Ballarat would see a resurgence of mining activity.
“Shorty” Harris, along with a few other prospectors continued to live in and around the town site for decades after the closure. The last of these die hard prospectors, “Seldom Seen Slim” died in 1968.
Time has taken its tole on the builds of the adobe buildings. Wind and water are literally melting the builds back into the desert.
Today, Ballarat is the subject of a few odd television shows and again made headline with the Ballarat Bandit camped around Ballarat and Death Valley.